May we who hope we are on our way to super-duper collision
not bloody our knuckles too badly if the tools slip
The lesson from wrench-work,
I will tell you, so you can say,
I was told once,
that applies to conceptions of the self
as half of a whole, each half being
is torque too much, the rotor goes out of round,
the drain plug’s threads are stripped,
torque too lightly and the wheel falls off,
a dummy light strongly suggests
you pull over and shut the engine down. It isn’t always clear
especially in the older cars
what action the dashboard would like us to take
to save ourselves.
We use to be bridle sewers.
We used to trust in the future-set dreams
sent to us by mermaids on prows.
The us’s in the ballad “Torn Between Two Lovers”
that everybody singing along to
thinks are doppelgängers
of half-of-a-whole them
also think that written especially for them
is Large Hadron Collider
the film. Humming
is the butter we spread over fear
so we can eat it
is how we walk alone at night
after movies that seem to be based
closely enough on events
from our own lives to make us feel like we’ve always
been being watched.
Because the humming is fueled
by the vapors that remain in the seemingly empty tanks
of the most-hopeful bones,
walking alone in the dark, we feel put in a sack
by unknown hands and given
to an unknown other,
to be tasted to make sure we’re not vinegar
to be shared and by our dying the kind of death like all deaths
that’s not decimation
but transformation (I checked the science today),
aged to perfection
or not, twist top or cork,
we’ll get them happily buzzed
if they drink us until there’s nothing left
of us but them.
Love, condolences, and whatnot keep flowing like a river, hey
We’re not so unlike,
swaddled and left in the wrong mailbox, like
an old carousel of somebody else’s parents
vacation of a life
slides waiting to be redelivered,
like fliers in a hub, like we’re residents of a state
of mind where nothing happens,
postage is always due,
and our explanations of where we’ve been
are belied by our muddy feet.
They refuse to sell pitchers of beer to parties of one.
shines up and out like spotlights in LA,
making beautiful the faces, which is why they won’t sell the pitchers
unless you’re with somebody
there’d be so much inappropriate lust.
Not being cranes, we can’t crane our necks far enough
to reach the address
to the lost city
in the blind spot
lower than shoulder tattoo, higher than the small of the back,
can’t re-groom it like so many flight-stressed
until smooth it
reads here. We’d play high-stakes footsie
if only our legs would reach.
A kitchen counter so very close to the trash can
under the sink
is where my treasure map has placed its large X.
The utility company representative
won’t tell me whether or not
it’s safe to dig there.
The river’s long blue eye is like a photograph
of a beautiful resident of a place our air force has bombed
on our behalf. We pass the day without any agency
over the collective pronouns. Despite the blue ribbons
they’ve pinned to our chests
we turn when they say con artist
just as we do when they say
free borsht. Rivers
around the world tie and untie knots of silt
like the planet’s their solitaire tourney.
Sufferers gathered at rivers, unlike rivers, live lives
you’d think would be too short for gaming.
Very little of what you think is true. The sufferers
mix their balms like tiny stews
and feed them to their tiny wishes
which they name
like tiny gods. They sink and rise
and wipe the jack of hearts from their eyes.
Steam rises from cows in a muddy field,
but not from the field.
Pods of drivers following maps think nothing of the queer physics.
They’re enjoying the beautiful day
as they would in an advertisement for beautiful days.
It’s impolite to ask just the prettiest of the cows
to say your name in moo.
You wait to hear your name said in steam, which is like being sent
to the sea when the sea is calling its children home,
is hollering their names, and you listen very closely
but oh well.
If you’re addressed to the start of a beautiful day
the memoir you write
will be called YOU REALLY HAD TO BE THERE.
The fear that we’ll be thrown away
is replaced by the fear that we’ll decompose
in what my socializers said to call
the rest of your goddam life.
We took every precaution to not die from drowning.
Our blindness was more currency than price.
A thank you goes out to the queen of spades
who donated her eyes to science.
We were charged to deliver them, but put them in instead.
If you open the envelope, you’ll never be able to shake the feeling
that you’re being watched.
No matter the outfit you choose, it will always feel like you’re wearing
a future you killed yourself
and had tailored to fit your form, a vest
the buttoning of which
tells you to watch what you eat, to exercise,
and is what you mean when you say
I’m here for you.
THIS PARABLE OF THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
DOES NOT FEATURE SCHEHERAZADE, AND SO
IT WILL NOT LAST AS LONG AS YOU MIGHT
LIKE IT TO/ You were thinking I ought to follow the routes
the trees have plowed through the air, rather than hanging
these strings of lights along the same old nails in the
fascia, around the windows, which is nigh on to thinking
like a soldier in a war film thinks while wrapping gauze
around another solider’s wounds, when you reached too
far and fell, and pretended a mortar had thrown you,
pretended you couldn’t feel your legs, rooting for an
invisible part of you rising, thinking the willow is
buoyant, I’m sure of it, that if it didn’t have roots it
would float away, although because it was snow you fell
into you weren’t really hurt, so next you thought this is
what rabbits see of war, and all the while we were
judging your actions against your intentions through the
windows of Orion slowly rising from his pyre, and our
decision took this long, and is finally, as promised, in
the envelop, so the envelop, please.
MATT MAUCH is the author of Bird~Brain, If You’re Lucky Is a Theory of Mine, Prayer Book, and the chapbook The Brilliance of the Sparrow. He leads the staff at Poetry City, USA, a journal of poetry and prose on poetry, and lives in Minneapolis, where he teaches in the AFA in Creative Writing program at Normandale Community College.
See also: An Interview with MATT MAUCH and REVIEW: Bird~Brain.
READ AND LISTEN
Issue 11 Playlist